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Full text of "A history of Persia"

ARCHITECTURE AND ART          293
American collector. Nor was the fame of Persian stuffs
and colours unknown in medieval Europe, light blue
material being termed "pers" in English, as in other
languages of the day.
Painting.—By Moslem rule the human figure cannot
be represented in art. Fortunately this was subject to
exceptions, and descriptions are extant of pictures painted
in the schools of Damascus, Baghdad and Cairo, in which
such figures appear. Few of the works of these artists
have survived, but the Austrian traveller Musil discovered
in the Syrian desert figure paintings of the eighth
century. The most important is a large picture in
which the Byzantine Emperor, the Caliph and the
Chosroes are pourtrayed ; other figures of the ninth
century have been found at Samarra. The frescoes dis-
covered by Stein at Khotan may also be studied.1
Among the earliest dated miniature paintings—and in
Persian art pictures on a small scale are the best—is a
work of the Abbasid school from Baghdad, the date of
which, A.D. 1222, is beyond dispute. It shows strongly the
influence of Byzantine art. But this art was soon almost
forgotten, and shortly afterwards Chinese influence became
equally strong, only to be shaken off in its turn. The
sack of Baghdad by Hulagu in A.D. 1258 is believed to
have dealt the death-blow to Arab art based on old
tradition, and at the same time to have given birth to
true Persian art. This at first was Persian Mongolian,
still showing traces of Byzantine influence. Its promise
was great, greater indeed than its accomplishment, for
the overpowering desire for material beauty mastered all
idea of dramatic pourtrayal.
At the end of the fourteenth century, by which time
Tamerlane had conquered Persia, the art had reached its
zenith. There is a perfect equilibrium between drawing
and colour, but the appeal is made by the artist to the
eye, and to the eye alone ; in other words, the soul is
wanting. The general impression is that of a scene
pourtrayed with a mass of colours, skilfully blended to
1 I have consulted Dr. Martin's Miniature Paintings and Painters of Persia, etc.; also
Gayet's L'Art person. I have to thank Dr. Diets, of the University of Vienna, for
the note on Musil's discovery.